John Browning

John Browning is a grandfather and retired educator. Born in the UK, he has an M.A. in

Modern History from the University of Oxford and was a secondary school teacher of History and Religion in Catholic and Lutheran schools. He was a Catholic school principal in Queensland for eight years and the inaugural Vice-President of the Catholic Secondary Principals Association of Queensland. He went on to hold senior positions within Catholic Education in the Diocese of Rockhampton and in the Archdiocese of Brisbane. He was also a Board Member of the Queensland Catholic Education Commission and of the Queensland Board of Studies, and represented non-government schools in a State Government Curriculum Review. He was the Chair of the Rockhampton Diocesan Education Council and was one of a number of lay people chosen to serve on an advisory committee in support of the Catholic Church in Queensland in its early efforts to respond to the clerical sexual abuse crisis. John has a Masters Degree in Educational Leadership from the Australian Catholic University and is the author of a history of Catholic Education in the Diocese of Rockhampton. He is currently a member of the Governing Council of Good Samaritan Education and of the Management Committee of the Brisbane Catholic History Society.


John Polding OSB

and the foundations of the Catholic Church in convict Sydney

Catholic convicts and military guards were among the first European colonists to arrive at Sydney Cove on the ‘First Fleet’ in 1788. Up to 40,000 Irish Catholics were amongst those sentenced to transportation from Britain to the convict colony over the next 50 years, and as free settlement became established many more Irish arrived. The Irish were regarded by the authorities as disloyal and potentially dangerous. No official permission for a resident Catholic priest was given until 1820. After that a few Irish clergy arrived but their presence was often marred by division and disputation. The British Government recognised the need for Catholic clergy but decided that the leadership of the Church in Australia should be English. The Benedictine William Ullathorne arrived in 1833 and was joined by his former novice-master, John Bede Polding, in 1835. Polding became the first Archbishop of Sydney and went on to become the founder of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan.

The workshop will examine the situation of the Church in the convict colony of New South Wales in the years leading up to the arrival of the Benedictines. It will go on to examine the efforts of Polding and his colleagues to establish a Benedictine abbey-diocese in Sydney, and the challenges that made this vision of an Australian Church unsustainable in the long term. Lastly, it will evaluate Polding’s Benedictine legacy.

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Good Samaritan Education
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Tel: +61 2 8752 5331